April Teel shares with Adriana how her thoughtful preparation set the stage for her to have wonderful birth experiences at both a freestanding birth center (with a midwife) and a hospital (with a family practice doctor). She reflects on how what surprised her the most were the differences between the pushing stages— with one being managed, long, and difficult, and the second being completely dictated by her body, allowing her to experience the Fetal Ejection Reflex.
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What we talked about:
- “If my mom could do it, so can I!”
- And suddenly we were pregnant
- Finding the right place to birth
- Contractions and a movie
- “It’s very important that you get some rest.”
- That time when you bolted into the birthing center, stripped and got in the tub
- Fully dilated but no urge to push
- Push here, push there, push everywhere
- The hormonal high of meeting her baby!
- Second birth in a new city
- The fears of having to do it again
- Needing to tell someone that it has started!
- Running into your doctor while in labor at the home improvement store… as one does
- Stand up and ramp up!
- A nice car ride with the labor playlist
- No tub? Walk in, strip, get into the shower
- Finally at Laborland
- Needing to push, where is the doctor?
- The head is born in the caul
- Her very colicky and alert newborns
- What would she do differently?
- Mama Natural visual birth plan template
- Kelly Mom website
- The Business of Being Born website
- Evidence Based Birth website
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
- Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta, by Ina May Gaskin
- Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler
- Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond, by Nancy Bardacke
- La Leche League’s The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West and Teresa Pitman
- Real Food for Pregnancy, by Lily Nichols
Related Birthful episodes:
[Birth Story] How She Embraced Physiology to Avoid Pushing for Three Hours Again
Adriana: Hello, Mighty Parent or Parent-to-Be! Welcome to Birthful. I’m Adriana Lozada and today we continue on our Models and Places of Birth series. So for that, I wanted to bring you two of April Teel’s birth stories to give you examples of what birth can look like in different birth settings, and how you can have a wonderful experience no matter where you birth.
April’s first birth was at a freestanding birth center in southern California and her second was at a hospital in North Dakota. Now, for her, the most impactful difference between these two experiences came down to the pushing stage, with one being actively managed and the other being completely dictated by her body, which then allowed her to experience the Fetal Ejection Reflex. You’ll also hear how for both, April set up very supportive birth teams, and was not afraid to advocate for what she needed.
You’re listening to Birthful. Here you inform your intuition.
Adriana: Welcome, April! It’s so great to have you here.
April: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited.
Adriana: Before we get started with your birth story, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
April: Sure. Well, my name’s April, I have been married to my husband, Ryan for almost six years. We have a three and a half year old boy and a 14 month (almost 15 month) little boy. We are a military family and we are currently living in North Dakota.
Adriana: Let’s go back to… back several years, to when you were first pregnant. And what were your thoughts and approach to birth then?
April: Yeah, well, my mother had two daughters, both naturally without any pain medication. And so I grew up with that, kind of always thinking I would want the same and do the same— but truthfully, I knew nothing about birth. And it was probably a little bit of a silly motivation for me, but I was more competitive with myself and just thinking, “Oh, I can do this,” y’know, but not really knowing anything about birth. And so I got pregnant, and my friend had had a waterbirth recently and she had had a great experience. So it was just more motivation to continue down that path. And she gave me a couple of resources, which was great.
Adriana: Yeah. So you had a birth philosophy of trying to do things unmedicated and you had your friend who had a waterbirth. How, then, did you prepare? What things did you set up?
April: Yeah. So I’m going to watch The Business of Being Born. I ordered a couple of Ina May’s books— her guide to childbirth and Birth Matters is another one that I really like. And just scheduled an appointment with an OB. Honestly, I just didn’t really know what to do and where we were living at the time.
There was only one hospital and I went and toured it with my husband when I was only like 15 weeks pregnant, but I just didn’t, I didn’t love the vibe I was getting.
And I wanted something more. And so I just was looking in our area and I didn’t have a lot of options, but I did find a birth center about… it’s like a 45 minute drive, without traffic. So a freestanding birth center with a couple of midwives and I went there and I loved it.
I just… I loved my meeting with the midwife. I loved the whole feel of their care and the rooms themselves were just beautiful. Y’know, they looked like hotel rooms and they had these big, beautiful tubs, so I definitely wanted to do that. And it thankfully was not too difficult to convince my husband, even though it was going to end up being costly for us. We knew that we were going to have to pay out-of-pocket and then we weren’t sure what our insurance would reimburse us. And I had had two appointments with the OB and I didn’t have a good feeling during those appointments just because I never actually met her; I only met the nurse practitioner.
And so that just didn’t really sit right with me. But when I called, it was kind of interesting. ‘Cause when I called to just let them know that I was transferring care, the receptionist asked where I was going and I told her and she said, “Oh, good for you.” And that was just kind of a little funny thing I’ll never forget, ’cause it, it made me feel good about what I was doing.
Adriana: And you wouldn’t expect the receptionist to say that, right? It’s like, what does she know?
April: Right? I know. I’m like… Exactly! That’s exactly what I thought. Yeah. So yeah, I transferred care. I think I was around 16 or 18 weeks, something like that.
Adriana: And then fast forward to the day of— how did you know things are happening?
April: Yeah. It was a Friday night and my husband and I were having a late dinner. It was around eight o’clock. I was 39 weeks and three days, and I started getting some period-like cramps, but at the time I didn’t really know what it was or what to think of it. And then we sat down and we started watching a movie and I noticed that the cramps were kind of coming in waves.
So I thought I’m going to… “Just gonna sit here and time these,” while we watched the movie and by about 11:30, our movie was over and I thought, “This could be it! Like, these are coming every 12 minutes or so,” not painful, but they definitely had my attention, yeah. So I called my midwife and I told her and she said, “Well, it’s very important you get some rest.” That was one of the things that she really emphasized a lot during my prenatal care was, y’know, first-time moms typically have long labors. It’s so important to rest, especially if you go into labor at night. And she asked me if I thought I could sleep through it. And I said, “No, I really don’t think I can.”
And so she told me I could take 50 milligrams of Benadryl, which I did. And I’m so grateful that I did. I really think it made a big impact in my birth, because I was able to get some sleep off and on for like the next six hours.
Adriana: That is huge.
April: Yeah. Very big. So, I mean, I would wait for the contractions, but then I would just fall right back asleep. Yeah. So I did that until about 5:25/:30 in the morning. And then at that point it was just getting too difficult and too uncomfortable to sleep. So I got up and I started laboring. I called my mom.
She was a six hour drive from me (about seven hours to the birth center), and the plan was for her to meet my mother-in-law and they were going to drive down together. So I said, “I think it’s happening. You need to come.”
Adriana: What was helpful to you during that kind of early time?
April: Yeah. Water! The tub. We had a really nice bathtub in this house and I got out, I did lots of things. I tried laying down on the bed. I had read the Bradley Method book and I had tried doing some of the positions that they recommend, but to be honest, I hated them. I did some birth ball stuff, but I mostly was in the tub. I just felt really good.
And then I lost my mucus plug around— I want to say it was around eight in the morning? And we called my midwife and let her know. And at this point I was really ready to leave. I was… I mean, they were… I don’t remember at this point how far apart they were, but they were very strong and intense, y’know, lasting a minute.
And I just felt like, “I’ve got to go.” But she was like, “No, I think, I think you can wait another hour,” and so she said, “Call me back in an hour.” And I was a little devastated, but that’s what we did. so we left for the birth center around nine in the morning. And then…
Adriana: So then, when you called… when you called her back, she was like, “Okay, you sound different right now, come,” was that it?
April: Yeah. Y’know, in hindsight she actually— well, she told me later, she thought I was going to come in still kind of in early labor. I think she was a little reluctant to have me come, but I mean, we had called her a few times at this point and I was really wanting to come. So I think she was just like, “Sure, you can come, yeah.” I mean, my husband did most of the talking with her. I did talk with her through a couple of contractions, ’cause I know, y’know, that’s kind of how they assess how you’re doing. But I don’t know if I was just handling it well, or I just wasn’t conveying how intense it was, but yeah, like, she didn’t think I was going to be as far along as I actually was when we got there.
Adriana: How far along were you?
April: I was fully dilated.
Adriana: Check you out! My goodness.
April: I was so relieved. It was the greatest thing I’d ever heard. So yeah, it was, we parked and I pretty much just bolted into the room and started stripping ’cause I wanted to get into the tub there. And so she checked me right away and yeah, she was pretty surprised too. It was a welcome feeling.
But then the real work set in— I had a really hard time pushing this baby out.
April: Yeah, we, so we got there around 11:00, and she asked me if I had the urge to push or any pressure in my bottom and I had a little pressure, but no urge at all. And so she just kinda told me to go ahead and keep laboring and, y’know, listen to my body and do what I needed to do.
And I kind of pushed, but I didn’t really know what I was doing or I just didn’t really have an urge. And then, a little over an hour later, a second midwife showed up (as they work in twos) and I continued pushing. I think they said, according to their record, that I really started pushing and things got serious at about 11:15 or so.
Yeah, so I pushed in the tub there until about 12:00 and then they had me move to the bed and I just alternated sides. So I would lay on one side and then during a contraction, like, lift my knees up to my chest and push. And then in between contractions, I would put my legs out and put, like, the top of my leg (like, the leg that was facing out) on the midwife’s shoulder and just rest… and then do it again. And then we’d switch sides every so often.
And I did that for two hours and he was finally born at 1:51 p.m. So it was a good, like, three-ish hours of pushing. It was really, yeah… it was hard because I never really felt him in the birth canal. I had felt like I was pushing into nothing, if that makes sense? Like, I felt like I was pushing and exerting all this energy into the contractions and that really… it was not very motivating.
And my water didn’t break until about the last five minutes. And when my water finally broke is when I could feel him and I was super motivated to get him out. It felt so good.
Adriana: Yeah, so, well, that’s part of what the amniotic fluid does— it cushions a bit, right? So that cushioning, once it’s gone, then you feel not like this water balloon, but hard bone on you, yeah.
April: So I… yeah, it was, it was interesting because for a long time, I just was trying to figure out, “Well, was it because my water was still intact that I had such a hard time pushing?” Or was it truly, I mean, just “first-time mom” or you-know-why, but the birth of my second son was, like, so similar yet so different that I can’t really blame it on the waters anymore, I don’t think.
Adriana: Well, okay, so let’s wrap this one up and then switch gears to the other one, and then we can talk more about the pushing and see what the thoughts are there.
April: Yeah, sure.
Adriana: Yeah, so baby came out, did he go right to your chest? What was it like meeting your baby?
April: Oh, it was just the best. It was the best after-birth hormonal high I’ve ever experienced. Yeah, he came right to my chest. He was a great size. He was 7 pounds 12 ounces, 20 inches long. He cried right away and we did skin-to-skin for like an hour. My placenta came out relatively quickly, I want to say within 5-10 minutes after he was born and they just put it in a bowl and then put the bowl right up next to me. And we just stayed like that for about an hour. And he nursed and my mom and my mother-in-law had arrived. And when they heard him cry and they came into the room, and yeah.
And then after a while— I wasn’t really expecting them to come in right away— so after, y’know, everyone had kind of calmed down and settled a little bit, I actually did ask them to leave and go get me some food because I was starving. Yeah, yeah. So they went and got me a sandwich at Starbucks. And to this day, I remember how delicious it was because I was just so hungry, but yeah.
Adriana: That sounds lovely. That sounds like, y’know, the hardest part was maybe that pushing stage, but the leading up to it seems like you were handling it quite well, y’know, even tricking your midwife!
April: I know! Yeah.
Adriana: So then fast forward to your next pregnancy. Did you do anything different the second time around when preparing and considering what your wishes were?
April: Yeah. It was a whole different preparation because we had moved between the two pregnancies. So the birth center was no longer an option and we had moved to North Dakota and my choices were even more limited where we were at. We briefly discussed a homebirth, but we weren’t really comfortable with it, for a couple of reasons.
One was the midwife lived over an hour away. The biggest one was that I was due in December in North Dakota, which, y’know, our winters are pretty rough— and yeah, I was due December 26. No, I’m… excuse me, he was born December 26th, I was due December 23rd. And I was also concerned about my care provider taking off for the holidays, like, taking some time off, so we decided on a hospital birth. There’s one hospital where we live and this time I knew I wanted a doula because even though I didn’t have one with my first, a hospital felt very foreign and, y’know, uncharted territory for me. So, I did some research and there’s a doula where we live who has a ton of experience.
She’s been doing it for about 14 years and she’s actually training to be a CPM, a midwife. Yeah. I met her and she’s just really sweet and we clicked right away and I knew I wanted to hire her. And so when I was telling her my fears about that it was so important to me to have the care provider that I had had all my prenatal care with actually be there for the birth.
Right? That’s what I had with my first son, And I wanted to have that assurance again and with the standard model of care, a lot of times, y’know, you just get who’s on call. And I was just really nervous about that. and so I was telling her that, and she said, “Well, there’s a doctor in town who’s actually a family practice doctor, but he also delivers babies and he himself has a large family. And so he tends to stay in town during the holidays and he will be on call for you,” ’cause he doesn’t have like a very big… y’know, he doesn’t have, like, a lot of maternity patients.
Adriana: Yeah, I find that with family doctors that’s usually the case, because it’s not their… y’know, pregnant people aren’t their only patients. That’s just one little part of it.
April: Yeah. And I had never even thought of that. And so my doula told me this, I thought, “Oh, I’m definitely going to interview him.” And so I did that right away and he was great, he was very supportive of everything that I wanted. I wanted to do another unmedicated birth— and of course I went in with, y’know, a ton of questions.
Like, can I push in any position? I don’t want to have electronic, fetal monitoring. I just want to have a Doppler. I didn’t want to have, y’know, an IV or anything. And so he was very supportive of everything and it was really very reassuring and nice. The only thing that he wanted was for me to have an IV port, so just have like the little, what did they— like, a “Hep Lock,” I think they call that?
Adriana: Yeah, the Heparin Lock, the Hep Lock, yeah.
April: Yeah. So he just wanted me to have that just in case of an emergency and I thought, “Fine,” like that’s not going to be the end of the world. So yeah. So I… so that is how we decided to proceed. I was going to have a hospital birth with him and I hired a doula and she was great.
Adriana: And so that definitely helped your fears of not having that care provider that you connected with present during the birth. So how amazing that that worked out. About what did… What other fears did you have or did you have any other fears?
April: Well initially during when I first got pregnant, I was a little scared to just give birth again, without, y’know, any pain medication, because although I loved my first experience, it was a lot of hard work and I was a little afraid to go through the pushing again. And I had heard that second babies tend to come out a little easier, so I was just kind of hoping for that.
But once I… as the pregnancy progressed, I got more and more excited and I re-read Ina May’s book and I read Mindful Birthing, which was pretty helpful, just kind of to get into a good mindset. I’m trying to think of anything else I did… oh, y’know, I took collagen powder, this pregnancy, which a… I feel like it was very helpful? So just to back up with my first pregnancy, I had a great pregnancy. I loved being pregnant, but I did develop SPD around 21 weeks.
Adriana: Can you explain… Can you explain a little bit more what that is?
April: Yeah, it’s Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, I think is what it stands for. And it’s basically pelvic pain. Yeah, it’s like this really intense pain down in your pelvic region. I was running and one day I went out for a run and just… it felt like it came on overnight and it just stop me dead in my tracks.
Adriana: Yeah. Well, and the thing is that the pubic bone in the front is not solid. There’s a little… It’s the two pieces come together, but there’s ligaments in between, so it’s not solid, and so when you have relaxin coursing through your body, y’know, it makes you all wobbly and everything’s, like, more flexible.
And so, I mean, that bone right there purposely is separated, so that there’s more flexibility and if the baby needs it, things can stretch to give more space. But yeah, if it starts stretching and separating ahead of time on a consistent basis, then you get SPD, which is super annoying.
April: Yes. Yes, it is. I didn’t have it terribly, like I could still walk fine. I’ve heard of some women that even have a hard time walking, but I definitely couldn’t run anymore. And it was very annoying and I had it even after he was born for like about a month, I want to say?
Adriana: Mhm. Yeah.
April: Yeah. Yeah. So the other thing that I did the second time was I started taking collagen powder because I was, I randomly came across it on the internet. It was sometime… I think around my first trimester, and, y’know, collagen is, like, good for joints and all that kind of stuff. And so I thought, “Oh, well maybe it’ll help me not get SPD this time?”
And it— I mean, I can’t say for sure, but I really think it did, because I never got it, and they say if you’ve had it once your chance of getting it again is higher, I believe. Right?
Adriana: Yeah. Yeah, ’cause the tendon or the ligaments in between have been stretched, so it’s easier. Like anything, if you’ve stretched at once, it’s easier for you to have it happen again. But yeah, I’ll look more into this collagen powder thing— I’m curious for sure.
April: Yeah. I really do think it helped. I was able to comfortably, still exercise and run all the way up until 32-ish weeks. And then it just got too uncomfortable with the big ol’ belly, but it had nothing to do with any pelvic pain.
April: Yeah, so this one, see, I was 39 weeks, we knew we were having another boy. My mom flew out to help and Christmas came and went, and I had had a lot of uterine activity this pregnancy. I had had Braxton Hicks with my first, but this time I just had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions, like I just felt a lot more going on down there for several weeks. So it wasn’t really anything new, but the day… let me think, Christmas Eve? We had gone shopping and I lost a tiny bit of like a— I don’t think it was my plug— but just kind of, some pretty thick discharge. And so I thought, “Oh, well maybe things are starting.” Y’know, that was really the only early sign that I had, and then the day after Christmas, I woke up at about 4:30 in the morning and I had my first contraction.
It was about 30, maybe 45 seconds long, and I just laid in bed and I slept on and off for the next two hours. And then at 6:30, I was just too excited because I thought, “Oh, this could finally be it.” So I got out of bed and everybody was still sleeping. And I texted my sister just to let her know today could be the day ’cause I just felt like I needed to tell somebody.
Adriana: Right? You were like in that Quietude all alone.
April: Yeah. So I let her know and I just sat in the family room and kind of waited for the rest of the house to wake up and I was timing them, and they were about 12-15 minutes apart at this point, y’know, just really early labor contractions, but I was feeling good about them. And… but at the same time, I really didn’t want to get overly excited, and because, y’know, you hear all the time about contractions just completely stopping and you don’t have the baby for days or whatever. So I just wanted to kind of go about my day as normal as possible. And my husband and my mom finally woke up and I told them I was having contractions, but “Don’t get too excited,” y’know, like, let’s just keep going about our day.
And I wanted to check out the after-Christmas sales! So I thought, well, let’s just go into town and run some errands and we went into town around, I wanna say 10 o’clock, 10:00 or 11:00? And we were shopping at Menards— I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a Menards.
Adriana: I have no idea what that is. What is a Menards?
April: I didn’t either until I moved to North Dakota, but it’s basically just a really big, like, home improvement store. Yeah, so we were at Menards and I actually ran into my doctor, which was so funny. So I was, like, having full contractions about every 12 minutes apart and they were lasting a good minute and they were intense, like I could not walk through them. I definitely had to stop, but because they were so far apart, I just didn’t— y’know, I just was kind of brushing it off. So I ran into my doctor and he was like, “Oh, I was wondering if I was going to see you anytime soon.” And I kind of laughed and said, “Yeah, I’m having some activity, like maybe, y’know, late tonight or tomorrow or something?”
So that was pretty funny.
Adriana: Was he present for any of the contractions so he could see what was really going on?
April: Unfortunately, no. No, he wasn’t. Yeah, so we said goodbye and then we went and had lunch at Panera and I had a couple really strong ones in Panera.
And my husband looked at me and he was like, “I think we need to just go home after this.” And I didn’t… really didn’t want to, but I was like, “Okay, fine.” So we drove home and he’s like, “I think you should get some rest.” So I laid down in bed from 1:30-3:30 and I didn’t sleep, but I just rested and would have my contractions still every 12-15 minutes apart and lasting a minute.
And after about two hours, I was like, “I’m kind of done with this,” so I decided to get up. I stood up and out of nowhere they started getting so close together, like, they dropped all of a sudden. I had one ten minutes and then eight minutes and then six minutes and within a half an hour, they were, like, 5-6 minutes apart from after that nap or nap-resting, and I was like, “Whoa, like this is really picking up quick.” So that was around 4:00 p.m.
Adriana: And I’ll this whole time I’m thinking in my head, “And you hadn’t called your doula!”
April: No, I know I had told her I was in— I had texted her and told her I was having contractions, but I was like, “Oh, it’s so early,” like, I’ll just let you know, y’know, later. And yeah, thank you for reminding me, my plan was for her to come to our house. She was actually going to take pictures too— she was also our birth photographer, so she was going to take pictures of me laboring at home.
And then we were going to drive to the hospital together. And now, y’know, I had this whole vision. But so I did text her and I was like, “These are really starting to pick up.” And she said, “Okay, well, I’m ready to come whenever you want.” And I was like, “Well, I’m handling them so well, like I’m walking and talking between them, I’m fine,” because I was kind of waiting for myself to get into Laborland.
April: Yeah, because I was in Laborland with my first for so long. And so I was like, “Nah, I don’t need you ’til I’m in Laborland,” so I told her not to come. And then it only was about five minutes later, I was like, “You know what? Actually, can you come? These are getting really close together.”
They were about three or four minutes apart at this point. And I thought, “I’m having a hard time gauging this because it’s just happening all so fast.” So she was like, “Yes, I’m coming.” But I did not calculate into my head that she’s about a 45 minute drive.
Adriana: And she was coming to your house.
April: Yeah. That is a tip of advice: if you have a doula, I really think that you need to think about the little logistics about things like that, because I just didn’t plan that into, like, how I thought, y’know, this was all gonna happen. Yeah, so she gets in the car and she starts coming our direction. And— but I mean, it took her a little bit of time. It’s not like she was ready to walk out the door the second I told her. So she is on her way and— let me think here— so my mom was distracting my two and a half year old at the time. I was just having kind of contractions all over the house: I’d have them, like, in the hallway; I would have them on my birth ball; and I went to our bedroom and I was having some in there. And then we called my doula and we just asked her how far away she was.
And she was about 15 minutes… and she was, like, about 15 minutes away. And I thought to myself, “I don’t know, I think I need to leave,” because I started getting shaky and nauseous.
Adriana: And how far away were you from the hospital?
April: About 20-25 minutes, yeah. So I thought, “I don’t think we can wait.” So we actually told her to turn around and just to meet us there at the hospital. And yeah, so we get in the car and I had my labor playlist music going and I honestly— I don’t mind being in labor in the car. So I’ve done it now twice, I think I’ve gone through transition in the car twice now.
Adriana: It’s your unique ability. That is your unique ability.
April: I don’t know what it is. I just like, I sit in the seat, I buckle my seatbelt, I lean it back and I enjoyed just laying back and looking at the— I mean, it was dark at this point, looking at the, y’know, headlights and the building lights and just kind of being in my little zone, the scene of my music and yeah. So it was a nice drive— and intense, but nice.
Adriana: I’m glad it was nice. Yes.
April: Yeah. So we get to the hospital and, oh, my midwife, she’s— excuse me, my doula— she was so great, she was waiting for us. And she went and parked our truck for us while my husband got our bags. And it was really nice not having to deal with that. And then she said, “I’ll meet you up in your room.”
And I was standing in the lobby while my husband was getting our bags and I had one contraction and I’ll just never forget. There was an older gentleman watching me and I was just going through this, like, super intense contraction. And I just kept thinking, like, “You know, why are you looking at me?”
Like, yes, I’m in labor. Yes. Yeah, and so my husband had called the hospital on the way there and told them that we were coming. And so they were prepared and he did tell them at that point that my contractions were about two or three minutes apart, I think is what he told them. And they were totally ready for me. They let me in.
And thankfully I didn’t have to walk far because it was so uncomfortable, but they had a room right there, not far down the hallway. And unfortunately all of their rooms with tubs were unavailable and I was really looking forward to getting into the tub, so I immediately went to Plan B and I just— again, there’s something about when I’m in full-on labor, I just… I don’t care. I just start taking off all my clothes and I want water relief immediately. So, I headed straight for the shower and there was a little nurse in there, a young nurse and she wanted to put the monitor on me and I just said, y’know, “No, thank you. I would actually rather have a Doppler.”
And she looked a little confused and was like, “Okay, I’ll go find one.” So she leaves. And then that’s when I got into the shower and then my doula had met us up there at that point and the rest, I mean, it just went so fast and I… when I’m in labor, I really like to be, I guess, in kind of the all-fours position.
Um, I had my head down on— they have a chair in the shower, and I was kneeling on the floor with my head down on the chair and I was gripping the sides and I stayed like that for a long time. And I would just bury my face into the bottom of this chair and my husband would put water on my back or rub my back, or my doula would rub my back.
Somebody was always there doing counterpressure and just making sure the water was on my back. And I asked for my music playlist in the bathroom and yeah, so I stayed in the shower. Let me think here… so I was in the shower… I mean, there was nurses coming in and out of the room behind me, but at the time I was fully— this is when I was finally in Laborland, I wasn’t really aware of what was going on. But I do remember at one point somebody said, “Such and such nurse is going to check you, is that okay?” And I was grateful that they asked and didn’t just do it, and so they checked me while I was down on this on-all-fours position in the shower.
And she said, “It’s hard to tell. I think she’s an eight with a small lip,” and moments before she had checked me, I distinctly remember this shift in contractions where instead of trying to relax my body through them, like, it was getting increasingly difficult to relax through them. I felt like I wanted to, like, push with them.
And so I had gone through a couple of contractions like that, where I thought, “Well, instead of trying to relax, I’m going to just work with it.” And I started to push and I thought, “Oh yes, this is what I want to do. This feels right.” And so I was kind of doing that quietly on my own. And then she checked me and said I was eight with a small lip.
And my doula was crouched on the ground next to me. And I just remember looking over at her and I so quietly said, “Can I keep pushing? Like, I don’t know if I can push with a lip.” And she just looked at me and said, “Just listen to your body and do what your body wants to do.” And I was like, “Okay, thank you.”
Because I just felt like I needed somebody to give me permission to keep doing what I felt like was right. So I did, I just kept pushing it in the shower and I lost my plug in there, my mucus plug. And then at one point, I remember hearing the nurses say, “Yeah, her doctor’s not here yet. He’s on his way, but the backup doctor is in the hallway.”
And I thought to myself, “Oh, if they’re already talking about doctors, like, I’ve got to be getting pretty close,” and then my doula looked at me and said, “Before you get your baby too far down, do you want to move to the bed?” And I thought, “Oh, baby’s comin’! Okay!”
So I said, “Yes.” And I got up and I walked to the bed. They had the bed inclined and I immediately got on and I kinda got into that, like I threw my upper body over the back of it. And then there was a bar in the back, like near where the head is and I grabbed the bar.
Adriana: So it was like a supported hands-and-knees, kind of like you were on the chair in the bathroom, but on the bed?
April: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I would grip the bar during contractions and then just kind of relax. But it probably sounds like all of that took a long time, but it didn’t, I was only pushing for about, hmm, 20, maybe 30 minutes? And he was born and I had started pushing in the shower and I think I was only on the bed for about 5 or 10 minutes before he was born.
My doctor only got there about 5 or 10 minutes before he was born. He actually walked into the room and I could kind of hear him, y’know, gloving up and whatnot. And he said to me, he goes, “I’m going to check you.” And I just thought to myself, “Why are you going to check me? There’s, like, no point.”
And then he, like, gets close and looks at me and he’s like, “Yeah, nevermind. Like, we don’t need to check you like, the baby… I see hair. There’s no need to check.”
Yeah, so yeah, that’s how he was born. He was born behind me. It was really cool because my water did not break until his head was born, en caul. So he came out in the sack (his head did), and then it popped. And then the next contraction, he came all the way out and they immediately put him under me and it took me a second to register, y’know, what had all happened.
And they said, “Reach down, grab your baby!” And so I sat back on my legs, my feet, and he was there between my legs. Yeah, it was, it was great. And I just couldn’t even believe it. And I looked up and I looked over and my doula was standing there with her camera. And I gave her this, like, kind of funny looking expression.
I just was, like, in awe of everything that had just happened! And yeah, so I scooped him up and they helped me move onto my back, and we sat like that. And they gave me some blankets to keep them warm. And it took a… it took a little longer for my placenta to come out this time. It took about 30 minutes or so.
But we did wait for the cord to stop pulsing before we cut it. And he nursed right away. He cried a lot, lots of crying. From the time that we got to the hospital— like, pulled up to when he was born— was only 50 minutes. So it happened fast.
Adriana: Less than an hour.
April: Yeah. And the pushing was much faster than the first time with my water intact. So they… that was the big, “This is so different for me.”
Adriana: Yeah. I mean for sure, right? Like, second babies and all that. But at the same time with this one, you were just going with what your body was saying. Y’know, it wasn’t that somebody said, “Okay, do this now.” Or, y’know, “Can you… There’s a little bit, can you hold it and can you push?” and have that sort of be the way that pushing started as, and you being tired also plays a part, right?
April: Yeah. Yeah. And I listened to that episode that you have with Whapio after I had him. And I just loved listening to that episode because when she was talking about lips and, y’know, a true cervical lip versus I guess not a true one, and listening to your body. And I thought, “Well, that’s… I feel like that’s what happened with us.”
Adriana: Yeah. And I find that, I mean, we’ve got this sort of imaginary boundary of “I have to wait ’till I’m ten and then somebody needs to give me permission to push,” and there’s a clear shift in gears of, like, before and after this moment. And truthfully that’s made up— your body doesn’t care, it just does its own thing to your body.
It’s all part of the physiology. And as things progress, it shifts— like, it does have that, y’know, the uterus is pulling up and pulling up all the pulling up until it’s more than open, but really has gone all the way as high as it’s going to go and then switches to pushing maybe down. So how the uterus moves is different for sure.
And it seems like you felt that shift this time, whereas last time maybe you didn’t feel it because, like, you were more in thinking brain and other things were telling you what to do.
April: Right. Yeah. It’s very possible. Yeah.
Adriana: Yeah. And I— and so from listening, from talking to Whapio, and doing births on my own— I try to get rid of that boundary and say, “You actually don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to wait for a moment to happen to then switch and start doing that. You just keep doing what you’re doing and your body’s going to tell you when you need to do something different.” Right? Because if you start analyzing, “Is this pressure, is it constant pressure? Does it… do I feel like I have to?” You’re thinking about it, and you don’t birth with your brain. Yeah.
April: Right. Yeah.
Adriana: It’s awesome that you had both experiences though too, though. I don’t know if you think the first one was awesome, but that you had to compare and to see the difference.
April: Definitely. Yeah, I love both of them there. Yeah, they’re different but similar and yeah, the change in the pushing for me was… it was really neat to feel my body doing it. You know? I mean, I was working with my body, but my body was definitely, like, pushing him out. It felt really good.
April: Compared to the first.
Adriana: It’s being able to let that Fetal Ejection Reflex happen. It seems that that’s what you felt.
April: Yeah. I think I did. I mean, it was night-and-day difference and it… now it sounds weird, but it felt good. I enjoyed it! It was still work, but it was good work.
Adriana: I love listening to fun stories like this. And by that, I mean, when they flow, that’s what it is— it’s flowing stories.
April: Right? Yeah. I know. I’ve felt very fortunate that both of my births have been extremely smooth, no complications, y’know, and I was just kind of along for the ride.
Adriana: And both positioning of babies! It seems they were pretty good, in terms of, y’know, back labor, no discomfort?
April: No, no back labor, but when I was pushing my first son out, it was kind of funny because at one point near the very end there, y’know, my back was really hurting and I didn’t think it was back labor, but I just said to my midwife, “Man, my back really hurts— like, I feel like it’s breaking!” I said, “Is this… Is this back labor?” And she said, “No,” she goes, “Honey, those are your bones moving!”
Adriana: “Those are your bones!” Oh, okay. Is that what it is? But ’cause also you were, like, you were semi-reclining at that point, right?
Adriana: Yeah, so you were sitting on your tailbone, which needs to get out of the way usually— like, and if you see textbooks and stuff, right where the head is coming out that way, the tailbone (because it’s flexible, curls out), like, really literally gets, like she said, gets your bones to move out of the way.
Then after the head, that pressure goes away, it pops right back into place. But sitting on it, that’s why it makes it so hard, ’cause it’s trying to get out of the way and there’s pressure on both sides, the head in the bed.
Adriana: “Those are your bones moving!” I love it.
April: I’ll never forget that.
Adriana: How could you?! So how was postpartum with this one?
April: Postpartum was very similar with both. I… my babies are colicky. They’re very alert newborns; they’re not sleepy little newborns. They are for about five to seven days, and then they really wake up and they’re… they were extremely similar, lots of, y’know, they wouldn’t even cry in the evenings.
It was all day crying. And so I kind of would just have to figure out what worked. The first time, my son would really only sleep in the Ergo. So it’s hard when you reach a point where your babies only sleep a certain way. I mean, they wouldn’t fall asleep nursing, y’know? I couldn’t bounce, rock, sway— you name it, I tried it.
And so for my first, he only fell asleep in the Ergo. And that’s really hard when, y’know, you want to take a nap too, and you can’t because you have a baby sleeping on you. So that was a challenge. And then with my second, also very similar, but this time I had a toddler as well. And so I think my postpartum with him was even harder because I did have two kids and I had to deal with a colicky baby and a toddler.
Yeah, they’re, y’know… with time, it’s just time. For both of my kids, there are about four or five months before things start to get a little easier.
Adriana: And I think that’s great for listeners to hear, as hard it is as it is. Right? Because when you’re in it and the craziness of a colicky baby in and out for days on end or a baby that’s so fussy or higher needs or whatever it is, it’s like, “Is this ever going to get better?”
April: I know, so hard, even when you’re in it. Even the second time around, I was like, “Okay, I know things are going to get better eventually, but I want them better right now.” But again, again, it’s just time and they do get better.
Adriana: So is there anything from birth and postpartum (at any point really) that you would do different if you had another one?
April: Well, I’m actually pregnant again.
April: Thank you! Yeah.
Adriana: So what are you doing this time?
April: I’m making sure that my parents stay out longer this time. They’re actually both going to come and then my mother-in-law’s gonna come right after they leave. So I’m going to have care for about three weeks after the birth, with parents and in-laws, and then my husband gets three weeks of maternity care— or paternity, excuse me— that he was not able to take with my second.
So he only had a couple of days off and then he went back to work and that was hard. And so I think this time he’ll take those full three weeks. And then the other thing is honestly, having a baby in North Dakota in winter was hard because I couldn’t go outside for, like, a walk, a breath of fresh air, anything like that.
So when we were kind of talking about this next baby, I said, “I don’t want to do another winter. So if we can try to avoid that, like I’d rather give birth in the summer.”
Adriana: How far along are you?
April: 17 weeks. Yeah. So I’m due in August. Yeah. So, we’re going to do a homebirth this time, actually.
Adriana: You’ve gotten to a place where that feels like the right thing to do.
April: Yeah, I met the midwife. I really liked her. I mean the distance is still, y’know— she’s still far away.
Adriana: Is this the same one that was 45 minutes away or an hour away?
April: An hour and 15 minutes away or something, yeah. But she’s the only one in the area. She’s great, but there’s… yeah, there’s nobody closer. But I’m gonna… I’m hiring the same doula.
And I feel really comfortable with her skillset, y’know, obviously she’s not— I’m not hiring her for the birth, but in the event that something happens super fast, if she’s there I’ll feel better. So, and again, I mean, I’m not planning on that at all because I know that’s not her job, but just knowing that, y’know, she is a midwife-in-training and she’s got so much doula experience, I just would feel a little better having her there than just myself and my husband. So yeah, we hired both of them. I’m in… I’m not dead-set on delivering in the water, but I am gonna have a birth tub. So we’ll just go with the flow and see what my body does.
Adriana: Yeah, no, I love that. Thank you so very much for sharing your stories today.
April: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
Adriana: That was April Teel, and as you heard, when we recorded April was pregnant with her third and planning to have a homebirth. April recently wrote to say that she had a wonderful, smooth, and quick birth, with her son making his entrance 1.5 hours after her midwife and doula arrived at her house. Interesting fact: all three boys weighed 7 lbs and 12 oz at birth.
You can connect with us @birthfulpodcast. In fact, we would love it, if you are not driving, if you would take a screenshot of this episode right now and post it to Instagram sharing any insights you had from April’s stories. Make sure to tag @birthfulpodcast so we can see it and amplify it.
Next up in our Models and Places of Birth series, we’re going to be diving deeper into homebirth, when I talk to midwife Robina Khalid about what you need to think about when considering birthing at home.
You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at B irthful.com, where you can also learn more about my small birth prep classes, and download your free postpartum preparation plan.
Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.
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Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
CITATION: Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Story] How She Embraced Physiology to Avoid Pushing for Three Hours Again” Birthful, Birthful. May 11, 2022. Birthful.com.
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About April Teel
April is a now a mama to three young, busy boys– who, incredibly enough, all weighed the same at birth. April’s background is in agricultural business, and she enjoys running with her boys, spending time with her family, traveling, wine tasting, the sunshine, and watching movies with her husband.
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